Today, St Barts serves as a playground for the super-rich but before the glitterati arrived, the Caribbean island was beloved by pirates. Beyond the achingly beautiful beaches and the glamorous bars, there is a wealth of history to explore. Read on for a pick of the best places to visit while cruising the coast of St Barts.
Soak up St Barts’ sights from the water with a relaxing sail aboard.
St Jean on the north coast
On the north shore of St Barts is St Jean, home to boutiques, restaurants and a lovely beach. This strip of white sand boasts extensive watersports amenities. After a stint in the sea, stop by Nikki Beach restaurant for lunch – their salmon rolls and sushi platter are delicious. St Jean also has the distinction of being near St Barts’ tiny airport; it’s accessible only to light aircraft, normally flying in from St Martin, who are forced to make white-knuckle landings.
Red rooftops are punctuated by sprigs of foliage in St Barts’ pint-sized capital Gustavia. The town is dominated by three 17th-century forts: Karl, Gustav and Oscar. All three can be reached on foot but the best views are from the nearby lighthouse. Gustavia is also home to dozens of high-end fashion boutiques. The French cafes and bistros are also worth dipping into, the pick of the bunch being the Italian L’Isoletta, the Thai Black Ginger and French-Latin Bonito.
Anse du Gouverneur in the south
Near Grande Saline is Anse du Gouverneur, once a pirate cove and stronghold of the scary 17th-century French buccaneer, Daniel Montbars. Access to the beach is easy compared to most of St Barts’ beaches but, like so many, it is advised to take sunscreen to protect yourself from the powerful Caribbean sun. Bring a towel and a picnic – there’s nothing else here aside from white sand and endless blue water.
Corossol near Gustavia
North of Gustavia is the sleepy fishing village of Corossol. The peaceful spot comes alive every January as one of the venues of the annual St Barts Music Festival. Other draws include a privately run shell museum with nearly 10,000 exhibits from all over the world. On the cultural front, the locals here still practice the art of weaving palm fronds to make hats, baskets and other souvenirs, while many village elders still speak a variation of Norman French.
Colombier Beach on the northeastern tip
Colombier Beach is well worth a visit, but getting there means following one of two challenging hiking trails that are not for the faint-hearted. On arrival, the beach is well-protected from the wind and perfect for swimming. On a clear day, you can see the neighbouring island of St Martin. Above is Francois Plantation, a colonial-style restaurant with an extensive menu. Try the beef tartare.
Lorient on the north coast
Lorient is a Catholic beach town, where surfers head when the swell is up. The right end of the bay is calmer, ideal for a more leisurely swim. After a dip, head to La Petite Colombe Bakery for a fresh croissant. Fans of French rock ‘n’ roll should make a beeline for the Cimetiere de Lorient where music legend Johnny Hallyday is buried; his grave has become something of a shrine for visiting fans.
Anse de Grande Saline in the south
One of the most celebrated districts of St Barts, Anse de Grande Saline is home to the deserted – except for the birds – lunar-like salt flats. The main attraction is the beach which, while beautiful, is like its many nude bathers, quite bare. Less than half a mile away are two restaurants, L’Esprit and Grain de Sel – try the lobster ravioli at the first and shrimp kebabs in beer at the second.
Grand Fond in the southwest
Why not head to the south of the island and swim in the natural swimming pools at Grand Fond? This hamlet captures the essence of St Bart’s charm with its contrasting scenery: one side is wild, barren, and windswept, battered by the surf, while over the hill the mood changes to one of serenity with cottages dotted in the lush tropical landscape.
Let someone else do the work when you sail around St Barts.
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